Karen Tal-Makhluf Announces Run for School Committee
My name is Karen Tal-Makhluf and I am the mother of three children ages ten and under. Like many other families, we moved to Marblehead to enjoy the seaside living and the excellent public schools. Over the past several years, it has become painstakingly clear that Marblehead Public Schools need to refocus their priorities on recovering from student learning loss and promoting academic achievement. For this reason I have decided to run for School Committee.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website, 72% of Marblehead 5th graders were not meeting grade level expectations. Even taking into account the ramifications of the pandemic on student outcomes, Marblehead students performed second to last when compared to similar school districts. Furthermore, recent changes to the K-6 report card moved to a “Standards Based” system which removed the category of “exceeds expectations.” Administrators claimed that Marblehead teachers strongly advocated for elimination of this “advanced” category. This is not true and came from a small group of internal teachers in discussion with school administrators. The majority of teachers were not even aware of the report card change until they read about it after the decision had already been made. How administrators felt that changing the report card was a priority is baffling considering the pandemic had such negative consequences on Marblehead students.
Teachers are not being supported by the administration. They are underpaid when compared to similar school districts. Our administrators are expecting them to implement MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support) which essentially means that a teacher is expected to effectively teach students within a wide spectrum of behavioral and academic abilities in one classroom. This is not fair to our teachers or students. The pandemic exacerbated behavioral problems and our teachers are overwhelmed. Administrators are making too many changes in our district at once and expecting our teachers to accommodate. This is putting our teachers through a tremendous amount of stress at a time when we need to provide them with as much support as possible.
Regarding Special Education, our school budget is losing $2.7 million to out of district placements. We should be focused on retaining these students by hiring appropriate specialists to allow them to stay in Marblehead Public Schools. By focusing on keeping these students in Marblehead, MPS will save money and allow these students to go to school in their local district with their friends. Furthermore, after talking with families who have children with varying disabilities, many are frustrated and upset with the lack of services their children are receiving. They are feeling that administrators are not prioritizing our children’s best interests and often consider parents to be nuisances. MPS should be making every attempt to help children in our district and to give them the services they need to thrive in a school setting.
The primary way that the School Committee can address these issues is through its three specific governance roles: policy, budget, and evaluation of the superintendent. All three have been sorely lacking, and we especially need to re-evaluate our policies to ensure that administrators do not implement interventions that run counter to the goals of Marblehead families.
We need to prioritize our goals and shift it back to helping our students overcome the learning loss that they experienced as a result of the pandemic. We need to provide proper support for our teachers including paying them a competitive salary. We need to do everything we can to retain our special education students so that they can get the services they need in local schools where they stay with their friends. There are two School Committee positions that will be open for the upcoming June election. This is our opportunity to change the trajectory of Marblehead Public Schools. If anyone would like to join me in this campaign to get MPS back on track, or would consider running for the other open seat, I look forward to hearing from you. I can be reached by email at saveMHDschools@gmail.com.